(June 7, 2019) –- For more than a year, GozNym, a gang of five Russian cyber criminals, stole login credentials and emptied bank accounts from unaware Americans. To detect and quickly respond to escalating cyber-attacks like these, researchers at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) have developed the first framework to score the agility of cyber attackers and defenders. The cyber agility project was funded by the Army Research Office.
“Cyber agility isn’t just about patching a security hole, it’s about understanding what happens over time. Sometimes when you protect one vulnerability, you expose yourself to 10 others,” said computer science alumnus Jose Mireles ’17, who now works for the U.S. Department of Defense and co-developed this first known framework as part of his UTSA master’s thesis. “In car crashes, we understand how to test for safety using the rules of physics. It is much harder to quantify cybersecurity because scientists have yet to figure out what are the rules of cybersecurity. Having formal metrics and measurement to understand the attacks that occur will benefit a wide range of cyber professionals.”
To develop a quantifiable framework, Mireles collaborated with fellow UTSA student Eric Ficke, researchers at Virginia Tech, U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, and the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Army Research Laboratory (CCDC ARL). The project was conducted under the supervision of UTSA Professor Shouhuai Xu, who serves as the director of the UTSA Laboratory for Cybersecurity Dynamics.
Together, they used a honeypot—a computer system that lures real cyber-attacks—to attract and analyze malicious traffic according to time and effectiveness. As both the attackers and the defenders created new techniques, the researchers were able to better understand how a series of engagements transformed into an adaptive, responsive and agile pattern or what they called an evolution generation.
The framework proposed by the researchers will help government and industry organizations visualize how well they out-maneuver attacks. This groundbreaking work will be published in an upcoming issue of IEEE Transactions on Information Forensics and Security, a top cybersecurity journal.
“The cyber agility framework is the first of its kind and allows cyber defenders to test out numerous and varied responses to an attack,” said Xu. “This is an outstanding piece of work as it will shape the investigation and practice of cyber agility for the many years to come.”
"The DoD and US Army recognize that the Cyber domain is as important a battlefront as Ground, Air and Sea," said Purush Iyer, Ph.D. division chief, network sciences at Army Research Office, an element of CCDC ARL. "Being able to predict what the adversaries will likely do provides opportunities to protect and to launch countermeasures."
Mireles added, “A picture or graph in this case is really worth more than 1,000 words. Using our framework, security professionals will recognize if they’re getting beaten or doing a good job against an attacker.”
UTSA is home to the nation’s top cybersecurity program, an interdisciplinary approach that spans three colleges: the College of Business, College of Engineering and College of Sciences. Research centers and outreach programs provide UTSA students and faculty with additional opportunities to explore the various facets of this high demand and ever-changing field.
The Department of Computer Science, housed in the UTSA College of Sciences, offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs that support more than 1,360 undergraduate students and 68 graduate students. Its major research units include the UTSA Institute for Cyber Security, which operates the FlexCloud and FlexFarm laboratories dedicated to both basic and applied cybersecurity research, and the UTSA Center for Infrastructure Assurance and Security (CIAS), which focuses on the cybersecurity maturity of cities and communities while conducting national cyber defense competitions for high school and college students.
San Antonio is home to one of the largest concentrations of cybersecurity experts and industry leaders outside Washington, D.C., which uniquely positions the city and UTSA to lead the nation in cybersecurity research and workforce development.
Learn more about the UTSA Department of Computer Science.
Learn more about cybersecurity at UTSA.
Celebrate UTSA’s 50th Anniversary and share social media posts about the 50th using the hashtag #UTSA50.
Roadrunners get involved in fun, engaging and interactive experiences to gear up for the new school year.Various locations, Main and Downtown Campuses
The success of African Americans in popular sports has been well documented, while less attention has been given to their intellectual achievements. Utilizing historical, sociological, and cultural perspectives, Dr. Langston Clark will explore the intersection of Black Intellectualism and Black Athleticism.The Garage at the Pearl, 250 E. Grayson, San Antonio
Join the UTSA Small Business Development Center for its 5th annual day of immersion into digital marketing through seminars, Q&A sessions, and networking. Industry-expert presenters include Mark Nanez, Cory Ames, Charity Matthews, and Steven Bullard.Durango Building (DBB 2.316), Downtown Campus
This exciting event leading up to the UTSA Football season opener with Incarnate Word brings the coaches, players, bands, cheerleaders and fans from both teams together for a spirited pep rally on the San Antonio Riverwalk, which is free and open to the public.Arneson River Theatre, Downtown San Antonio
Home tailgate admission is free to all UTSA Alumni Association members. Non-member adult admission is $20 and children 16 and under are free. Anyone who wants to get Rowdy is welcome! Giveaways, music, UTSA Cheer & Rowdy, Pep Band and more!Alamodome Lot C, 100 Montana St., San Antonio
The Roadrunners open up 2019 play against hometown rival UIW Cardinals.Alamodome, 100 Montana St., San Antonio
This event is an opportunity for students to meet with employers that are looking to hire UTSA students for part-time employment.Student Union first and second floor corridors, Main Campus
The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.
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